Manga Shorts

by Patrick King

Junk Force Vol. 1

by Hideki Kakinuma and Yusuke Ken
Comics ONE
Retail: $9.95
Rating: 85%

Junk Force caught me off guard this month by actually being one of the more enjoyable I stumbled across. Backed by an interesting science fiction story that would make excellent video game material, the series looks good, reads well, and is generally entertaining.

In the year 2100, as can be expected in any respectable sci-fi adventure, mankind has really messed up Earthís environment. When will we learn?

Luckily, some people had already been living off-planet before the living conditions of the world were reduced to the quality of a big manís sweaty armpit. Yum.

Also luckily, an automated system was left in place to clean up the mess humans made, wiping the slate on the surface clean for new life to take hold in a century or so.

Not so luckily for those who are left on the Earth, however, is the fact that humans are seen by the mechanical planet-maids as dirty, and thus are summarily destroyed.

With a guy to girl ratio thatís not quite as exaggerated as the manga norm (only 1:3), Junk Force follows the quest of Louis, a young boy with impressive mechanical aptitude, and the three girls who watch out for him.

The art in this series is consistently attractive, and I guiltily have to admit that I enjoyed the frequent fan service here and there. Despite little bits of casual nudity, thereís no sex, and so the tone of the series remains more humorous than raunchy.

Pick this one up if youíre looking for a fun, different science fiction story. It promises to get even better with time.

Louie the Rune Soldier Vol. 1

by Ryou Mizuno and Jun Sasameyuki
ADV Manga
Retail: $9.99
Rating: 86%

Speaking of the 1:3 ratio, here we have it once again, this time in a fantasy setting. Ah, but Rune Soldier is a bit different from other works, for it was actually penned by the mastermind of Record of Lodoss War, Ryou Mizuno.

Expect no epic war story here, however. This is a comedy, more along the lines of Slayers than The Chronicles of the Heroic Knight.

Louieís a mage who isnít nearly as focused on the art of magic as he is on the nearest cute girl he can lay his hands upon. His situation is irrevocably altered, however, when he runs into a trio of female adventurers who claim that he is the new leader of their group, as ordained by the powers that be.

Proof, indeed, that the powers have a sense of humor. Itís a good thing, too, otherwise Iíd really be in trouble by now.

Jun Sasameyukiís artwork feels fresh, and the character designs, while familiar, are quite attractive. Itís nice to see a tall, strong, female character that doesnít look more mannish than womanly in a manga series.

Fans who need more than just Slayers to satisfy their cravings for humorous fantasy need look no further. Though, if you do want more, allow me to suggest Those Who Hunt Elves, which is also now available from ADV Manga.

Slayers Return

by Hajime Kanzaka and Shoko Yoshinaka
CPM Manga
Retail: $9.99
Rating: 82%

What a coincidence! Since weíre on the subject of good humorous fantasy, I happen to have this copy of Slayers Return right here...

This is a standalone story featuring Lina Inverse, the young but frighteningly powerful sorcerous and Naga, her greatest rival / ditzy sidekick. Itís easy to get into Slayers because of its relatively simple storyline, which is at once a good and bad trait of the series.

Itís good because the series is extremely funny. Everyone needs slapstick comedy. It is, in fact, my belief that such humor, if distributed to the entire world, would bring peace to everyone on the planet.

Right. Anyway, on the subject of world peace, in this book, Lina and Naga once again threaten it by helping to bring about the revival of an ancient and powerful Elven weapon. Itís immune to magic and physical attacks, so you can imagine the trouble a pair of magic-users get into fighting this beast.

Well, stop imagining it and just get the book. Just donít read too much Slayers in a row Ė it may burn you out. Otherwise, itís probably the best funny fantasy series out there, and it will certainly summon a laugh or two from even the most morose readers.

The Ruler of the Land Vol. 1

by Jeon Keuk-Jin and Yang Jae-Hyun
ADV Manga
Retail: $9.99
Rating: 84%

Whatís this? Another comedy? Youíd think it was April 1st all over again!

This one is a little different, however. Itís Korean (ADVís first Korean series, if youíre keeping track), and therefore has a decidedly different flavor than its Japanese brethren.

The Ruler of the Land is a great place to start. Yang Jae-Hyunís artwork is very impressive. The visual style switches from realistic to cartoonish without seeming awkward, and while the overall tone of the book is comedic, thereís a serious story taking place in the background.

Either that, or this is a great action adventure title laced with a little bit of comedy. Itís refreshingly well-balanced between drama and humor, coming across as very entertaining in general.

Hwa-Rin Dahm, a skilled swordswoman, is seeking someone that the slightly lecherous Bi-Kwang Han has information on. Bi-Kwang is a bit dim, but follows in Louieís (see above) footsteps when it comes to helping women. Or, rather, helping himself to women. Sadly, heís so dim, he doesnít realize that Hwa-Rin IS a woman, at first.

More historical fiction than fantasy, this book is nonetheless a great read. Itíll lighten your mood, in the end giving you one more reason to respect Korean comics.

Bow Wow Wata Vol. 1

by Umekawa Kazumi
Raijin Comics
Retail: $9.95
Rating: 88%

This series is about a young, gentle boy named Tasuke who discovers an ability to speak to animals, passed down to him from his parents.

Well, really, thatís only half true; he is young. But gentle? Not quite. In truth, Tasuke freaks out a little bit when he realizes he can understand what the animals at his fatherís veterinarian clinic are saying.

It takes love Ė in particular his fondness for the cute but slightly older Misato Ė to get Tasuke to help her cranky dog Wata, but once they do, they become fast friends.

Okay, thatís not true, either. Wata and Tasuke fight whenever they can (with Wata usually winning the bouts), and while Tasuke is in love with Misato, her care for him is that of a sister to a little brother.

Bow Wow Wata is a series that is truly unique, and much of its charm comes from the authorís obvious soft spot for animals. Umekawa Kazumi is actually a vet in real life, and her calling in life shines in this endearing series from Raijin Comics. With great art, charming characters, and a good mix of drama and humor, Bow Wow Wata is highly recommended.

Sister Red Vol. 1

by Shizuru Hayashiya
CPM Comics
Retail: $9.95
Rating: 81%

After all of the cute and funny series weíve looked at this month, itís time to take a walk on the darker side. Sister Red is not charming, but its supernatural storyline is undeniably seductive.

When Mahito is killed in a hit and run, thatís only the beginning of her problems.

Well, perhaps the real beginning is when she doesnít die from the incident. She returns to her home, covered in her own blood, and wakes up two days later, unharmed. She soon discovers that she is now a sort of undead creature known as a Median. A whole new world is suddenly revealed to her in the shadows of her former existence.

With her newfound powers Ė including enhanced strength, better vision at night than during the day, and nigh-invulnerability Ė come new threats for her friends and family. Weíre not quite told exactly whatís going on in this chilling series from Shizuru Hayashiya, but Iím very eager to find out.

Discussion / Feedback